By Bobbie VanZile and Sue Moore
A survey of Schoolcraft area residents concerning the recently defeated bond issue was presented to the School Board with an analysis by Tarah Farness, a volunteer who has children in the district.
Farness, owns a business called Pearl Marketing Research Consulting. She holds masters and undergraduate degrees from WMU with a specialty in market research. “Tarah just fell into our lap,” said Superintendent Rusty Stitt. “What a blessing to have her data analysis to get at what might be the next step in understanding what the public wants with its school system. The favorable survey report she presented, showed what [people] would accept. We have operated with a tight budget, and the community appreciates that we don’t need all the fluff,” he continued.
Farness said that the 7 percent of registered voters who responded to the survey seemed representative of the vote. Women were represented as 64 percent of the respondents, with GenEx age, at 41 percent and those over age 65, at only 5 percent. One third of those answering did not have kids in the district. Others were evenly mixed with kids in each building.
Fifty-one percent felt the school was headed in the right direction, 32 percent unsure; 16 percent wrong direction.
Overall, most people feel the facilities are average to above average. Of those who voted no, they felt the facilities were much better than the yes voters. Sixty-five percent of no voters graded the facilities an A or B.
Considering the financial assessment questions, nearly one in three feel the school is average and 16 percent feel it is below average or failing. Ratings are weaker amoung those over 65 and no voters. There were a lot of people who could not answer due to lack of knowledge, lack of understanding about verbiage on what money could be used for, Farness explained.
Nearly one in four think the new middle school attached to the high school was the primary reason the bond issue failed. However, less than four in ten felt that the Early Elementary should remain a school, 37 percent think it should be maintained as a school, 22 percent repurpose as a community center; 41 percent said it should be demolished or sold. At least six in ten of those over 65 and no voters were in favor of keeping the building as a school.
Farness cautioned the school board to look at the overall answers to what the highest priorities are for the district. Whole populations were left out of the survey and it may be important to get more 65 and older adults to answer. “In general the voters considered what’s reasonable for the cost involved.”
Board President Mike Rochholz said there would be no formal decisions made at this time on how to proceed. However, fixing some of the most urgent needs will be done with monies from the capital budget, which has been set aside, just for building maintenance and upkeep.